Make simple & healthy meals at home: Chef Souvik Gupta of Loft shows the way
As the COVID-19 lockdown enters another week, most home cooks are looking for new ways to cook and new recipes to try out. Fortunately, there are many restaurants and cafés out there now who are sharing their most popular and healthy recipes with their fans.
One of these cafés is Loft, where dishes like the Vegan Buddha Bowl and Vegan Burrito Bowl are most popular. With their vegan variations, the chefs at Loft are trying encourage people to try their hand at these quick and nutrient-rich dishes and also add some tasty and healthy juices that will help to boost immunity during the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
These dishes contain many nutrient-rich ingredients such as red rice, spinach, quinoa, broccoli, tofu among others that can be easily customised with any other veggies that are available in your area. This also makes for a complete high-protein and fibre meal, ideal for people who are looking at losing some weight and staying fit during the lockdown.
The immunity-boosting juices are a combination of power-packed ingredients like spinach, carrot, apple and ginger which are blended with no added preservatives or sugar, are therefore safe and healthy too.
Souvik Gupta, Culinary Head at one of the first Interactive Cafe Lofts, has over 25 years of experience and his expertise lies in Indian cuisine followed by European and Tex Mex Cuisine. He has worked with Fresh Menu as VP Food Production, Ammi’s Biryani as AVP Production, Britannia (Daily Bread) as Exec Chef and has held many other top positions during the course of his career.
Souvik’s creativity and passion for experimentation, along with his curiosity to play with flavours has resulted in Loft’s unique menu, catering to a plethora of profiles. Keeping in line with the ‘Food with a side of fun’ concept, the menu at Loft is fun, and irresistible. He believes that cooking is an art and innovation the force driving it.
In an interaction with YSWeekender, Souvik offered some tips on healthy cooking and what goes into a simple and healthy meal. He also shares his recipes of the healthiest dishes on the menu.
Edited excerpts from the interview
YSWeekender: Can you tell us about your work?
Souvik Gupta: We have tried to revolutionise the concept of casual dining in India and have created a platform that can cater to both your culinary and entertainment needs in one go. Loft was launched to help the work-weary, value-centric and time-poor generation to ‘Eat More and Play More’ and access a gamut of stimulating experiences all under one roof.
Be it engaging with friends, or spending some quality me-time, the idea was to have all your needs covered. We wanted to bridge the gap between food and fun and seamlessly integrate it to create an all - encompassing café, and allow millennials to unwind and de-stress.
YSW: Can you give us some tips for planning simple, healthy meals during this time of COVID-19?
SG: Natural colours in your food is a great hack to ensure your nutritional needs are met. Healthy meals are the ones that contain a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. The antioxidants in these foods help decrease inflammation further protecting against cellular damage.
We encourage you to try your hands at Vegan Burrito and Vegan Buddha bowl (recipes below) as they are complete meals, easy to make and loaded with nutrients.
YSW: What is the importance of immunity boosting juices during the lockdown?
SG: A substantial dose of vitamins and nutrients is of utmost importance to power your body and the immunity system to actively fight the antibodies and keep you healthy. Clean eating habits go a long way in preventing your body from contracting illnesses.
A plethora of fruits and vegetables like spinach, apple, carrot and ginger help boost your body’s natural defenses and strengthen your immunity system. These fruits and vegetable provide vitamins A, B6 and C and also potassium and folic acid.
For beginners, fusion fruit and vegetable juices are good DIY options to keep your immunity system in check this season without having to compromise on taste.
YSW: Why is the Buddha and Burrito bowl so healthy?
SG: Our best-selling Vegan Buddha Bowl and Vegan Burrito Bowl strike the perfect balance between appeasing the gut and the taste-buds.
The Vegan Buddha Bowl inspired by the Asian and Hawaii culture is a mix of greens, grains and a source of protein along with condiments to make it a complete healthy meal in itself whereas the Burrito originated from Mexico was an inspiration to recreate a healthy delicious version called the Vegan Burrito Bowl.
Both these dishes are very healthy as they have many nutrient-rich ingredients such as red rice, spinach, quinoa, broccoli, tofu among others that can be easily customised with any other veggies that are available in your area. This also makes for a complete high-protein and fibre meal, ideal for the ones who are looking at losing some weight and staying fit during the lockdown. They are also easy to make.
YSW: What are some of the mistakes that Indian home cooks make when cooking meals?
SG: One of the most common mistakes made by Indians is that we overcook our meals until they are devoid of their natural nutrients. It is important to learn about the time required to cook certain ingredients and following the recipe carefully in order to make sure that our food is as healthy as it looks.
YSW: Why is a vegan diet suggested and which vegetables would you say are the best for health during these times?
SG: A vegan diet comprises plant-based food that are nutrient-rich and a wholesome substitute to meat. Vegetables like tofu, broccoli, and spinach among others are some examples one can opt for. The key reason one should opt for a vegan diet during this lockdown is because these are richer in nutrients and can help one stay fit and also lose that excess body weight. It also lowers the risk of heart diseases and is a must have for those who have high blood sugar.
YSW: What are some of the new recipes you are developing in your kitchens that are healthy and good for your customers in the future?
SG: We are constantly innovating and customising our menu as per the needs of our consumers. Bearing the changing trend and preferences of the customers, we recently launched a “Hearty and Healthy” menu that offers a slew of dishes one can try to stay fit. These dishes include Keto Bowls, Roasted Vegetable salads and a little treat for pizza lovers with our sourdough/ flatbread options among many others.
YSW: What do you see as the future of food?
SG: Green and clean eating trends will dominate the F&B space post COVID-19 as consumers have become more conscious about their food choices and are refraining from falling prey to illnesses by weighing the pros and cons before giving into their impulsive cravings. People are embracing a healthy, a more-aware and responsible lifestyle.
Here are some of Souvik’s healthy recipes for the lockdown:
Vegan Burrito Bowl
Boiled Red Rice - 200 gm
Boiled Kidney beans -25 gms
Red Chilli Sauce - 85 gms
Mexican Sprinkler -1 gms
Roasted Cumin Powder as per taste
Salt - as per taste
Chop Fresh Coriander - 6 gm
Tofu Cumin oil - 5 ml
Diced Tofu - 100 gm
Roasted cumin powder- 1 gm
Sweet Corn - 40 gms
Clean Raw Spinach - 40 gms
Bell Pepper- 40 gms
Shredded Iceberg Lettuce -25gms
Mexican salsa- 35 gms
Guacamole Dip - 60 gms
1. Pre-cook the red rice on a medium flame.
2. Take a plastic bowl and pour the cooked red rice and season it with salt and pepper and then microwave it for 60 seconds.
3. Take a bowl and toss red rice at the bottom of the bowl.
4. Spread the guacamole dip on the right side, followed by the Mexican salsa dip.
5. Shred the Iceberg lettuce next to the Mexican salsa dip.
6. Then arrange the tossed Cumin Tofu next to the salsa and pour kidney beans on the tofu.
7. Arrange the sautéed sweet corn next to the tossed tofu.
8. Arrange the sautéed bell pepper next to the sautéed sweet corn.
9. Place the spinach with garlic oil next to the sautéed bell pepper.
Carrot Orange and Ginger Jungle Juice
Carrot - 250 gms
Ginger - 20 gms
Orange - 250 gms
1. Wash and peel the carrot and ginger. Chop the ginger into fine pieces and dice the carrot roughly as it has to be blended.
2. Peel the orange and add it in the blender.
3. Mix all the ingredients and blend it to yield the healthy and refreshing juice.
Spinach, apple and ginger Juice
Spinach - 200 gms
Apple - 200 gms
Ginger - 20 gms
1. Clean and drain the spinach at least thrice to wash out the dirt and then dice it roughly.
2. Wash and chop apple into pieces and the ginger also will be washed, peel and chopped into fine pieces.
3. Peel the orange and add it in the blender.
4. Mix all the ingredients and blend it to yield a healthy and refreshing juice.
Vegan Buddha Bowl
Oil - 10 ml
Chopped garlic - 2
Boiled Quinoa - 200 gms
Crushed black pepper
Tofu with sauce:
Chop Thai Red Chilly-1 gm
Kung Pao Sauce (recipe below)
Tofu - 100 gms
Hot /Grilled Vegetables:
Oil with a little bit of garlic - 3 gms
Carrot - 50 gms
Broccoli 50 gms
Clean Raw Spinach - 50gms
Crushed black pepper
Kimchi - 50 gms
Shredded Iceberg Lettuce -50 gms
Lemon Wedges - 50 gms
Kung Pao Sauce:
Dark Soya Sauce - 200 ml
Honey - 200 gms
Chopped ginger - 10 gms
Vinegar - 200 ml
Chopped garlic - 10gms
Star anise - 2 gms
Method to make Kung Pao sauce
1. Take a sauce pan and heat it on a medium flame.
2. Pour the dark soya sauce in the sauce pan and bring to boil.
3. Turn the heat low and then add in chopped ginger and chopped garlic. Let it boil on medium flame as your stir constantly.
4. Next add honey and star anise in the pan and stir well.
5. The sauce needs to be cooked for 3 to 4 minutes on medium flame. Then take out from the flame and keep a side to rest.
6. After removing sauce from the cooking range, toss out the star anise from the sauce.
Method to make the Buddha Bowl:
1. Heat a pan on medium heat with oil, chop garlic then toss all the ingredients from the base column in the grid and also season it with parsley, salt and pepper seasoning.
2. Take a combo bowl and align the quinoa at the bottom to create the base of your Buddha Bowl.
3. Put sautéed broccoli on the right side of your combo bowl.
4. Add the shredded iceberg lettuce beside the sautéed broccoli.
5. Sauté the diced tofu in Kung Pao sauce and place it next to the iceberg lettuce.
6. Arrange the sautéed carrot beside the Kung Pao tofu.
7. Add the sautéed spinach with garlic oil beside the sautéed carrot.
8. Arrange the kimchi salad beside the spinach.
9. For a final touch/ garnishing: Sprinkle white sesame seeds on the Kung Pao Tofu and also place lemon wedges on the iceberg lettuce.